28 July, 2013

Choma Museum Art Gallery Newsletter no 4

The Choma Museum Art Gallery Electronic Newsletter no 4
28 July 2013
 Edited by Bert Witkamp

The Choma Museum e-mail address is: chomamuseum@gmail.com. Mail to that address will be read by Mwimanji N. Chellah, executive director of the CMCC. Peggy Himoonde, public relations officer, is in charge of the Art Gallery. For information about the forthcoming CM Art Gallery exhibition you may also contact Bert Witkamp at zamfactor@gmail.com. The Choma Museum Art Gallery website is: chomamuseumartgallery.weebly.com. The site is small but keeps you updated about what is happening in the gallery. It gets visited about 5-10 times daily – pretty much the same as the average physical visits of the gallery. This newsletter is also published on the art gallery website.

One outcome of the impromptu elevation of Choma to provincial capital of Southern Province was a frantic search for offices of provincial departments that were threatened with severe sanctions – their chief officeholders that is – if they continued to dillydally about their forced move from the fine historical town of Livingstone to nondescript Choma 180 km up the road. One outcome of the frantic search for offices in Choma was a letter written by the neighbour of the Choma Museum telling its director to move the Choma Museum out of the building, the former Beit Boarding School for Girls dating back to 1927, and to do so within 14 days as of the date of writing of the ominous letter.
            In most countries it is unusual to demand that a museum moves out of its accommodation within a fortnight, even if the demander is the legitimate landlord - which is not the case here. It was also wrong in principle as the entire building had been renovated by the Netherlands government in the understanding that one part would serve the District Education Office and the other the museum and crafts project now named the Choma Museum and Crafts Centre Trust Ltd. You can find the historical details – we are talking 1987 to 1993 - in the relevant post of the ZamArt blog.
            Remarkably the director of the CMCC and me were in Lusaka at the time when the matter was reaching a climax. I was in Lusaka to collect art work for the Graphic Art of Zambia exhibition, both from a private collection and from artists. The CMCC director, M.N. Chellah, was in Lusaka to appear for the parliamentary committee dealing with museums. It provided him with an excellent opportunity to defend the Choma Museum position and accommodation. The friends I was staying with are long time supporters of the CMCC and they also alarmed and mobilised parties to stave off the eviction of one of the two private museums in Zambia out of the accommodation it had paid for in full.
            The matter, by the way, landed on facebook including a facebook group called BaTonga of Zambia. Some of their members were willing to take to the streets in defence of “their museum.” And indeed their museum it is, and of others as well! (In passing I note that Zambian museums should come to understand that they also are in the 21st century; and should use the means at hand of our time and age; and Internet is in the forefront of them).
            Thanks all of you for support and encouragement!
Though these matters caused a lot of excitement in an otherwise rather dull museum existence they negatively impacted on planned activities and especially the Graphic Art of Zambia exhibition. Things got delayed. Chances were slim that the Choma Museum neighbours would carry their lunch boxes to the art gallery room and throw its art works out on the streets, yet this was not really a conducive atmosphere to do all the things that need to be done to get an exhibition up and into place. Apparently the situation cooled – the how’s and what’s still are shrouded in mystery – and therefore preparations have resumed. See below at 4 for more.

3         CURRENT EXHIBITION: WOMEN IN ART – art by or about women

Nachisungu. Print by Lutanda 
The exhibition opened March 2nd and has been extended to the beginning of August for reasons stated above. The number of recorded visitors to date is about 900 – a number that should rise in the future, with better publicity and museum sign posting. Sales to date are in the order of K 9,000. Unfortunately visitors often need to insist to see the exhibition as they might find the gallery doors closed due to lack of staff attendance, a circumstance also obstructing sales. 

Gossiping women. Woodcut by Tayali.
As mentioned above preparations for this major exhibition have resumed -  the opening now tentatively is scheduled for 10 August 2013, depending on availability of GoH. On display: drawings (ink or pencil) and prints of Zambian artists and artists working in Zambia. With work by: David Chibwe, Fakson Kulya, William Miko, Lutanda Mwamba, Bert Witkamp, Patrick Mweemba, Peter Gustavus, Cynthia Zukas, Agnes Buya Yombwe, Jonathan Leya, Henry Tayali, Patrick Mumba and Aquila Simpasse. Work on display is submitted by artists and private collections. The CMCC managed to secure a bit of financial support from local banks - consoling thought after recently having myteriously lost Kr at a local ATM. I am busy framing and mounting pictures and the accompanying leaflet is well under way. Rest assured the exhibition will be great, stressing the initiators and founders of printmaking in Zambia and their worthy successors.

In a previous newsletter I mentioned that it is time to come up with a Practical Plan for the Choma Museum Art Gallery; a plan that has vision, is feasible, inspired and inspiring, of this time and age, puts the gallery on solid economic ground, and of course: MAKES ART WORK. In fact, there has been no reaction to this – perhaps yet another signal that it is time that also museums in Zambia should realize that they are in the 21st century and should start using the means available to them. I mean the Internet – and that does not cost money. All that is required is the desire to do so; a mindset that is up to date and updated. You can set up a website for free and the technical knowledge to do so can easily be mastered by a secondary school kid.

Note: You are welcome to notify art events for posting on the Choma Museum Art Gallery website or ZamArt Blog by using any of the e-mail addresses above.